“In 2002, 14-year-old Daniel James Nolan went missing, from Hamble in England, after going out fishing with his friends on the evening of January 1st. The cause of his death is unknown and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance remain unsolved to this day.
Daniel, known as Dan, had gone out fishing at 8 pm with three friends Joe, Thom, and George, (whose names have been changed due to being minors at the time), and was due to return home at 2 am. Dan’s mom, Pauline, has stated before that it wasn’t unusual for teenagers in the fishing community to be out this late at night and that she didn’t have any worries as Dan would be with a group of friends. The four boys set up their fishing gear on the pontoon on the Hamble River. They had brought a bottle, unknown to their parents. Dan, Joe, and Thom drank some but George didn’t drink at all.
After the boys had eaten some snacks, mucked around, and settled into fishing, George was picked up by his dad at 10 pm. It is recalled by George that his dad was quite strict and wouldn’t let him stay out late. He regrets not staying, stating in an interview with playwright Mark Wheeller, ‘Just the fact I was there on the night he vanished makes me think it was partly my fault. I could have told him to come home with me.’
After some time had passed, Joe was sick on the pontoon and the other two boys suggested he lie down for a bit. At around 10:30 pm, Dan decided he wanted to head up to the local shop for some chocolate, stating it would be open until 11 pm. Thom decided to join Dan and they left Joe on the pontoon. However, when they reached the shop, it was closed. Dan saw some friends at the bus stop and went over to speak to them. Thom went back to Joe on the Pontoon. Joe was feeling very unwell and had been sick another time. Thom and Joe decided to pack up their fishing things and they walked up to the high street.
Meanwhile, at the bus stop, the friends asked Dan the time. Due to the fact he could read his watch with no trouble, it was determined that despite drinking earlier in the evening, Dan was still capable and aware. After some time passed and realizing the bus might not be coming, the group of friends left to walk home and Dan walks back along the high street towards the pontoon. On his way he was seen by a party leaving the Bugle Pub by a woman who knew him, driving in her car.
Here is where Dan meets Thom and Joe, now heading home. They saw Dan outside the Victory Pub in Hamble around 11:40 pm. Thom tells Dan he has packed his and Joe’s things and needs to take Joe home. Dan asks Thom to help him pack up his stuff, but Thom declines, stating he wants to get Joe home. At this point, by his own admission, Joe had to lean against the windows for support and was repeatedly being sick. Thom has also stated he thought Joe was more in need of his help at that time. Dan makes his way down to the pontoon to pack up his fishing gear, stating he would be just behind them. This was the last time he was seen.
When he failed to return home by 2:45 am his mother, Pauline, went down to the pontoon that he had been fishing from to look for him and found his fishing gear there but said that Daniel Nolan was nowhere to be seen. She describes the scene to playwright Mark Wheeller here, ‘Dan’s tripod stand was like collapsed in the corner like he was packing it away then suddenly stopped or, I don’t know. been stopped. One of them must have fallen in and then he probably tried to. . . his backpack was.. like it had just been chucked down. It was in the middle, you had to go round it to get to his other stuff. His gloves, they were there as well. It was spooky.’
She hurriedly went to check at the other boys’ houses to see if Dan was staying with them or if there had been some sort of incident. She then called the police and by 4:30 am there were emergency services on the water looking for him. The police said that all the CCTV cameras in Hamble that might have captured footage of Daniel Nolan or anyone else were either turned off or broken.
For the next three months, the river was searched every day, on both tides. Every yacht was fingertip searched and had divers under in case Dan had become trapped. Two large army sonar units found nothing. Bits of a headlamp were discovered in a field around 3000 meters from the pontoon and Pauline and Greg Nolan are adamant it is the one Dan was wearing the night he disappeared. This has never been confirmed.
21 months after Daniel’s disappearance, human remains were discovered by a dog-walker in an area of beach known as Chapman’s Pool near Swanage, Dorset, on May 15th. A left foot inside two pairs of black socks and a DC trainer (Daniel’s last described clothing) was found and DNA positively matched this to belonging to Daniel Nolan. To this day, Daniel’s left foot is the only evidence that has been discovered in his case. An article in the Daily Mail states that the foot had separated from the body naturally.
Daniel’s parents accept that he is dead but still have that feeling that something else happened to their son. Pauline Nolan told the Daily Echo, ‘Therefore on this evidence, we must accept that the probability is that our Dan is no longer alive. However, as a family, we must emphasize that this does not tell us the circumstances surrounding Dan’s disappearance. In fact, we feel that this has posed a lot more questions than given answers. We are fully aware that the police investigation into Dan’s disappearance is still ongoing and we would like to state that as a family we have complete faith in the Major Crime Unit and thank them for all their efforts in trying to answer our questions. While hopefully, the pain of losing Dan will fade we know that our joy of having him in our lives and memories will come stronger. The search for Dan may be over but I can assure you that the search for the truth surrounding Dan’s death will continue.’
To this day, there have been no further findings made public surrounding Daniel’s disappearance/death.
What do you think happened to Daniel Nolan?”